The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold
Paperback, 352 pages
Little Brown & Company
April 20, 2004


Susie Salmon (“like the fish”) was murdered at age 14 by a man in her neighborhood.  She left behind her parents, her brother and sister and the family dog, Holiday.  Before being lured to her death in an underground hideout hidden in a local cornfield, Susie had been a normal girl with a normal life.  She went to school, pined over her crush Ray Singh, and dreamt of being a wildlife photographer.  But all her hopes and dreams of a future she would never live to see were ripped from her by the man who’d carefully prepared for her rape and murder.  And she hadn’t been his first.

The Lovely Bones is a compilation of memories throughout Susie’s short life and the events that followed her death, centering around her family, Name, and an acquaintance from school named Ruth Connors, who sensed Susie’s terrified soul as it fled the earthly realm the night of her death.  Susie narrates the story from her heaven, a ever-changing place she calls the In Between, where she spends time with fellow departed souls whose heavens overlap with hers and watches the loved ones she left behind on Earth. 

She suffers as her family slowly falls apart in the aftermath of her disappearance, and when her case switches from missing person to homicide her mother eventually leaves for California to try to forget her dead daughter.  Susie watches as Ray and Ruth grow closer in their grief for her, and as her neighbors hold vigil in the cornfield on the anniversary of her death.  She sees her family struggle to pick up the pieces and carry on with life as the years go by and her siblings grow up.  She sees all this, and we see it with her, all while she is constantly reminded by others in her heaven that she must forget Earth.  But she doesn’t forget the ones she left behind, just as they never forget her.    

When I saw Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lovely Bones a few months ago I was absolutely blown away.  The cinematography was stunning and the emotion was so raw and tangible, by the end I was so overwhelmed I was speechless and in tears.  Beautiful, beautiful movie. 

So naturally I was really excited to read the book and I expected it to be even better than the movie (because books usually are).  Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case.  I still loved the premise of the story, but I couldn’t connect with Susie and her family as much as I did with their movie counterparts.  And Susie’s memories in the book weren’t woven in as seamlessly.  They felt choppy and disjointed, interrupting the flow of the narrative.  Somehow the book just felt flat and dull when compared to the movie.  The emotional scenes weren’t as intense and even during the suspenseful parts my heart was calm and even, as opposed to when it felt like it was going to beat out of my chest during the movie (when Susie’s sister breaks into George Harvey’s house and finds his journal).

Overall it was a good read, and one that I don’t regret, but my experience while watching the film clearly influenced my perception of the book.  Maybe if I had read the book before seeing the movie I’d be writing just the opposite. 

What do you think?  Did you prefer the book or the movie?



  1. I haven’t read the book yet (it’s on my TBR list) nor seen the movie. Maybe I should read the book before seeing the movie- I don’t like when the storylines differ too much from each other.

    • Jamye Said:

      That might be a good idea. I think I would have liked the book better if I’d read it before seeing the movie. The storyline remained pretty much the same, but the book seemed like a dulled down version in terms of emotion. I’m curious to see what you think when you read it!

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